R U OK? Day 2018: MATES in Construction (MIC) urge workers to speak up

Flying the flag: Port Macquarie MATES in Construction (MIC) Fly the Flag group were keen supporters of R U OK? Day.
Flying the flag: Port Macquarie MATES in Construction (MIC) Fly the Flag group were keen supporters of R U OK? Day.

CAN a ‘bloke’ talk about his feelings? Of course they can – and they should.

Woollam Constructions have partnered with R U OK? Day to create change in Port Macquarie.

A barbecue at their Port Macquarie RSL Lifecare Pozieres site on September 13 supported efforts to lower the alarming suicide rates among Australian men in construction.

The MATES in Construction (MIC) Fly the Flag initiative is about creating change, given recent studies have shown the suicide rate among men in construction was nearly double that of the general population.

Woollam Constructions managing director Craig Percival said every business and individual involved in the construction sector had a responsibility to do more to support the mental health and well-being of men in industry.

“We all have a responsibility to our colleagues, employees and friends to talk about theses issues out in the open and reduce the rates of suicide among men in our industry,” he said.

“Simple gestures like flying the MIC flag and having a barbecue can have a real impact, as it gives us all a chance to stop, reflect on the significance of the issue, and have conversations for change.”

Woollam Constructions has been Queensland and New South Wales partners of MIC – the not-for-profit suicide prevention body in the construction industry – since May 2017.

More than 20 other Woollam sites also raised the flag to actively support suicide prevention in the construction industry.

Ryan Guyatt, site manager at Port Macquarie, said bringing the team of more than 120 on-site workers together was important.

“We wanted to let them know it's OK to speak out,” he said. 

“We all have issues and demons that we shouldn't be keeping in. We want to let them know it's OK to speak up and support each other.

“It's important to break down those barriers and that stigma that construction workers face.”

Liam Trusz, also a site manager at Port Macquarie, said morale among the group is high.

“I try to do something similar every fortnight so the guys feel welcome and part of the team,” he said. 

“On-site I've had to help guys who are struggling. Even the other day I had one guy speak up because he was having problems.

"We're both returned serviceman and we know that camaraderie is important,” Mr Guyatt continued.

They said it is as simple as asking if someone is OK – and urged everyone to ask that question of their mates. 

“When we were young there was nothing like this back then we were told to "harden up" but that mentality is gone,” he said.

“It's a new era in construction and we are open...there's no shame. That's not how it should have been and that's not how it is now.

“We are creating an environment where people can approach management and speak about issues"